Notes from Brightest Africa

by Sedgwick Clark

I’m sitting on the porch of the Tinga Game Preserve in Kruger National Wildlife Park watching a herd of nearly 20 elephants feed down by the river. One of the kids is on his back rolling around in the dust, just as our bichons do in Central Park’s grass.

Shortly before, he was marching along behind his mother (I presume), followed by another adult elephant and another child—large, small, large, small. A pretty picture, and hard to take one’s eyes away. An hour ago they were to the left of the porch. Suddenly they were startled by something and stampeded wildly—but with surprising grace—to the right about 30 feet in front of us, braying and hooting vociferously. If only I had had our video camera poised!

Yesterday afternoon we were out in the bush with a guide and sited three giraffes, a white rhino, a rare black rhino, and a hippo, as well as several elephants and impala—the latter being as ubiquitous as deer in the Hamptons. This evening we saw a cheetah and a spotted leopard, as well as many elephants, baboons, and impala again. We heard lions roaring in the distance, but we still haven’t seen one. We have one more day . . . .

Peggy Kane petting a cheetah

Last Friday we visited the Hout Bay Music Project in Cape Town, the small music school for disadvantaged students I mentioned in last week’s blog. The students’ families have come to the city in search of a job, and they live in hastily built shacks of corrugated metal and found materials. The kids’ instruments are hardly more substantial. The school is run by Leane Dollman, a woman who is not paid but has raised money to keep the school going. The school teaches primarily strings and percussion, but also song and dance, and the kids put on such a routine for us when we arrived. Later, the teacher led a short concert of string arrangements for us. Amidst tuning up, a young cellist played Smetana’s Moldau. I walked over to him and told him it was one of my favorite pieces and that he had good tone. He beamed. He was a very serious young man, as well as one of the best dressed of the kids, and I encouraged him to continue. I’ll bet a little Yo-Yo Ma would help.

We came bearing gifts: 30 CDs of chamber and solo string music, sheet music from G. Schirmer, t-shirts from the New York Philharmonic, and baseball caps commorating Lincoln Center’s 50th year. Jonathan Rosenbloom, of Time Inc., had brought several issues of “Time for Kids,” which immediately captured the students’ interest. But when we tried to play some CDs, their stereo was found to be so wanting that we bought them a new Pioneer system from a local dealer. In response to my blog last week, Eric Gewirtz of Boosey & Hawkes wrote to me asking what his company could do. We’ll try to work something out. When one sees the power of the arts and how lives can be so affected, it’s impossible not to become involved.

Peter Clark with an owl perched on his hand.

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